I bet those who grew up in the pre 90’s would shudder to think what life would be like without such basic necessities as the Internet and mobile phones. Those of us a bit older would have never even conceived such things and if we had been told of them thought that this was just some sort of deluded science fiction. Major inventions that revolutionised the way we lived came occasionally and were just as ground-breaking for us. The VCR transported the living room into our own private cinema even though it cost a bomb, weighed a tonne and there was very few films to watch at first. Similarly the microwave was the housewife’s (and yes these were much more sexist times for the family unit) dream gadget for the kitchen, making meal times a much easier and elaborate affair. Still us kids got out on our bikes a lot more and we look back fondly on the era when sexual awakening was not found at the click of a finger but from the first discovery of (very frightening) hairy hedge porn. But I digress before I’ve even started.
Made in 1979 but not appearing until video had become ever more popular in 1983 Microwave Massacre first appeared on the shop shelves via Astra Video. I remember looking at the cover imagining all sorts of atrocities with people shoved into the kitchen unit to slowly roast, crackle and their eyeballs pop out in front of me. Seeing it was a bit of a disappointment as it was one of many films around at the time that offered much but delivered something rather different. Re-evaluating it today I can appreciate what the younger me did not, and look on it as the relatively gore free black comedy that it is.
Director Wayne Berwick was hardly a prolific name making just this and then years later in 2005 The Naked Monster. One would suspect he seized an opportunity to have a stab at making a film as many others were doing at the time. Many of the cast were flying by the seat of their pants and were one offs too. The film starts with a buxom blonde strutting down the street and putting her rather large attributes through a hole leading onto a construction site, leading several of the workers to completely forget their lunch. For a second I thought I had accidently put on something like Debbie Does Dallas and there really is no fathomable reason for this scene apart from to gratuitously grab the attention of a sweaty teenager and keep them watching and pad out the running time (a scant 76 minutes).
Lunch is actually a problem for poor old Donald (Jackie Vernon – comedian, voice of Frosty The Snowman and bit part player in the likes of Kolchak The Night Stalker and CHiPs). His wife wants to try and make him eat sophisticated foreign food when all he wants is mac and bologna sandwiches. His lunch fix today is a (very plastic) full unshelled crab in the biggest roll you can imagine. Home is no better either as she has a new-fangled microwave to cook up gourmet treats and he is none too impressed with this or her constant nagging. After a night playing barfly the inevitable happens. He wakes up to find her body in the sparkling new Major Electric microwave machine and having missed dinner a light bulb goes off in his head. Having rearranged the fridge and blown the films budget on silver foil, meal time will never be the same again. Even his co-workers can’t get enough of his tasty new treats and it does wonders for Donald’s sex life too when an invite round to dinner has a whole new meaning. Vernon plays it relatively straight and the one-liners come thick and fast and I have to admit I found myself guffawing a fair few times here. After knocking off a lady of the oldest profession in the world for instance he deadpans the line “I’m so hungry I could eat a whore”. Well we weren’t expecting things to be sophisticated or totally PC here.
There’s loads of daft things and whacky characters on hand, the neighbours next door to Donald could have had a film made of themselves and it would most definitely been XXX rated, the running time makes it all fly through and there’s even humour right down to the end credits which you have to stick around for. I certainly did as the Dr who pops up in the film looked uncannily like Burzum’s own Varg Vikernes which had me doing a right old double take (of course it’s not but)… Owing a huge debt to H.G. Lewis, although far from a Blood Feast, Microwave Massacre is a lot more fun than I remembered or expected, it’s like Lewis and Mayer put through a blender with National Lampoon, Kentucky Fried Movie and Mad Magazine. It’s a very odd choice of film to get picked up for bothering with a Blu-Ray upgrade and it looks and sounds great, far better than anyone could have expected. Now I wonder if the same treatment is going to get given to Gourmet Zombie Chef From Hell, what a double bill that would make!
It’s not too surprising that there isn’t a huge array of extras here but Arrow have tracked down the director Berwick, actor Loren Schein and writer / producer Craig Muckler (who also provides an audio commentary) for a making of featurette. Berwick intended on being a baseball player but started out making educational films, inevitable perhaps due to the fact his father Irving was a renowned dialogue coach and director too. The others also had ties to Irving too; Muckler through his film Malibu High and as he says with the idea of Microwave Massacre in mind they simply went for it, raising the money just on the title and a rough outline on paper. That rather odd opening to the film gets explained and the casting of the late Jackie Stewart who it seems had some deep and prescient thought about the overall narrative of the movie is discussed. There’s some interesting anecdotes including the fact that the house interiors were filmed in Micky Dolenz of The Monkees pad as he was due to move out, no doubt driven mad by the sexpot next door neighbours. Muckler is amazed that the film is coming out all this time later on Blu-Ray and he’s certainly not alone. Perhaps this might pave the way for the sequel which it appears is also not a total impossibility.
Despite some saying that this is among the worst films ever made Microwave Massacre is far from the recipe for disaster it could have been and although it might leave a bad taste in the mouth it’s well worth grabbing some beers and a take away and giving it a shot. Just be careful just what you are stuffing into your mouth though.